Out of my Comfort Zone

Another ‘morning’ journalling inspired post…

How have you stretched your comfort zone in the past month (even slightly)? 

What did you learn from this experience? 

Well I guess I stretched my comfort zone by returning ‘home’ to Southampton for 2 weeks.

It’s funny, they say ‘home is where the heart is’ and at the moment my home isn’t in Southampton. I love my job, I find it very rewarding but at the moment in this covid world my job is not so rewarding…it’s the face-to-face interactions I live for in my job. It is seeing those questioning faces of the youngsters that fuels me.

I’ve been reading Scarlett Thomas’s World Quake novels (thoroughly recommend by the way). In those awesome books, specifically the second one, Effy (the heroine) almost runs out of her life force and gets a terrible affliction known as the Yearning. I think this is a good metaphor for how I feel now.

I feel low on life force at the moment; so going back to my ‘home’ in Southampton, my flat, with no garden, where I live alone… it has depleted my life force instead of topping it up.

The distraction of cooking my own food, decorating the spare room, doing my own laundry was not enough to calm my racing mind.

Anxiety stirred in me while I was there, my thoughts run a mock.

Even though I tried to meet with friends in the evenings there was two whole days where I didn’t speak to anyone in real life other than the dentist. I cycled to the common to sit in the sun and read a book but I was truly restless.

Somehow (well because of the global pandemic) my ‘home’ no longer feels like a home. It makes me feel restless and pointless. The pointless feelings are the most worrying; as that when I know depression is looming.

So after 2 weeks there I made the decision to come back to Wales to be with my parents and doggie siblings. I packed up my car last Friday and drove back.

Today it’s the following Saturday, and it’s terribly rainy weather (much worse than when I was in Southampton might I add) but I just went for a run on the beach and I’m now reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley in the window seat, surrounded by dogs.

I feel so much calmer here and my mind is not racing so much.

Environment is so important, as I’ve learned from James Smith’s daily emails (again, thoroughly recommend you subscribe to these!)

I don’t yearn for the ‘old normal’ before Covid but I don’t yearn for this ‘new normal’ either… I think it’s impossible to do so to be honest. How can you yearn for a future that is totally unknown?

I am proud that I did get out of my lockdown comfort zone and return to my life in England. I am proud that I stayed there for two weeks on my own. But I am also proud that I was able to acknowledge that staying there any longer might have significantly impacted my mental health.

For now my home is where my heart is, in Wales, with my family; by the sea.

There’s a tremendous amount to risk to playing it safe.

so, another morning journalling attempt…

Over the past month, what have your actions been silently saying about your priorities?

Well we are in lockdown so the past month I have had a lot of my actions enforced upon me by the law!

But, I guess my actions have shown I do have new priorities indeed…

I’m just going to list some of the changes/new priorities here ‘cos I am a scientist and ADHD and deal better with listing things haha, also it’s really bloody hot today and I am having trouble putting my thoughts in order:

  1. I’ve realised for me EXERCISE of some kind every day is very important for my mind and body. I have to do it to stay sane and happy. Even if it is just 2km on the rower or 4 laps of the field next to my parents house. I’m trying to just go running without being super dedicated to a certain distance. I’ve found when I am just running for the love of running and being grateful for what my body can do I actually go further and faster than when I put the pressure of distance on myself. I also get less injures.
  2. READING. Omg so chill time with a book and noise cancelling headphones has been so important. It’s amazing to escape and it forces me to not look at my phone so much which is always a good thing. I now recognise I need to make time to read everyday, even if its an audiobook (which is possibly cheating). It’s so healing and reading really does take you to new places and allow you to live different lives…and travel…omg I miss travelling :./!
  3. SHOPPING. I’ve realised all the things I actually need (toiletries, books, stationary -not food lol) I can buy online and I can buy them from local/small businesses. I don’t need to go to big shopping centers; where I will undoubtedly get stressed and anxious about all the people and overwhelmed by all the items and end up wasting my money on shit I don’t need. AND you can put adblockers on your browser so that’s amazing if you are like me and easily led by ads…and we don’t yet have the technology to block me from seeing end of aisle offers; it’s all too much.
  4. LEARNING a language…I’m still really enjoying taking time each day to do my Spanish learning, even if it’s just a quick Duolingo lesson on my phone. This is something totally different to my work so hopefully it keeps my brain going and expands my mind. Also, it’s nice for me to think that when we can actually travel I can go to a Spanish speaking country and talk to the locals innit. Hola!
  5. I’ve prioritised time OUTSIDE on my own in the NATURE too; I guess lockdown has made me realise how important this is…

I’ll finish this post with this quote I just stole from one of James Smith‘s daily emails…(I thoroughly recommend you subscribe to them!)

Anyway his email today was about being happy and not striving for a life that doesn’t actually make you happy just because you think that’s what you should be doing; and I really needed to hear that today.

Realize that sleeping on a futon when you’re 30 is not the worst thing. You know what’s worse, sleeping in a king bed next to a wife you’re not really in love with but for some reason you married, and you got a couple kids, and you got a job you hate. You’ll be laying there fantasizing about sleeping on a futon. There’s no risk when you go after a dream. There’s a tremendous amount to risk to playing it safe.

Bill Burr
Oh to be at a festival right now!

What is the one reality you need to come to peace with?

Well, lockdown has been great for this. It’s been a great leveller. This reality; it’s really something actually.

REALITY CHECK x 10.

Hmm, I guess I’ve realised I don’t actually need all those things I thought I needed.

I don’t need more; I already have everything I need.

(I realise that I am speaking from a place of privilege here; I have a nice roof over my head and a garden and I’m in this lovely bubble here in the South Wales Valleys where neither me or my parents have to go out and see people. We can do all our work out of the confines of this dinning room).

But, yeah, as long as you have your health, and your family are ok and you can contact them and your friends. That’s really all you need.

I’ve realised too, that I really didn’t appreciate how special it was to be near actual people and have actual face to face interactions in reality. IRL!

My aspirations and ambitions for the future have actually shifted as a result of this experience though.

I don’t feel in a rush to get back to my old life.

Of course I wan’t to go out to meals with my friends and play roller derby and go swimming with the triathlon club… but knowing I can’t go back into schools and interact with young people in real life means I am really quite content with this work from Wales life (again I realise I am very lucky and privileged here!).

But, with regards to life ambitions. I’ve never been someone who had a 5 year plan. I was never someone with a 6 month plan either to be honest. I only ever strived to have some travelling adventure in the diary to look forward to and that was enough for me to be content…so it does feel really weird that my calendar literally has no future travel plans in it. I can’t even put in a date for when I go back to England…

I’ve always been a ‘live in the moment’ type of person, which I think maybe makes this whole situation a bit easier for me. For example, I’ve never really aspired to get promoted in work, or to have more responsibility; some people might say that’s because I am a woman and we aren’t confident in our own abilities and we hold ourselves back where a man wouldn’t.

The truth is I am confident that I could work at a higher grade, but I don’t want to. I did a PhD, not because I really wanted to, just because I didn’t know what else I should do. I was told that because I got a first it was the natural next step. I never stopped to think about the extreme effect four years of PhD would have on my mental health. I don’t regret my PhD but I wouldn’t recommend it to a friend lol.

For me trying to get promoted and have more responsibility it’s not worth the stress. I’m so grateful for my PhD because without it I wouldn’t have been able to have this job; this job that I love. But I still find this whole ‘Dr’ thing embarrassing. I don’t feel like I deserve it and I don’t like using it, again I realise this embarrasment and awkwardness surrounding my title might because I am woman, or maybe it is just my personality. But I don’t want people to see I am a ‘Dr’ and feel like I am trying to say I am better than them, or smarter than them. I am just stubborn, that’s the only reason I have a PhD. But I digress, the stress, the responsibility of working ‘at a higher level’ it’s just not worth it for the effect it will have on my mental health; I’m cool with this level :P.

Life is short and I have enough money to be happy; besides I am getting anxious now just at the thought of having more meetings about stuff, even if they are virtual lol.

I like to just get on and do the stuff, I actually really like doing the thing.

The real problem for me is being forced to make a plan, to sit down and think and not just throw myself in, head long. I need constant supervision, to stop me going off on tangents (probably the ADHD). I like doing all the things, but I have to be careful as I do get easily overwhelmed and then it gets so bad I can’t do ANYTHING…

But, If you too are a ‘grafter’ that’s nothing to be ashamed of. In the end, we can’t all be high level managers, someone has to actually DO the things!

Society says that at 35 I should have a husband, and kids and a mortgage; that after 10 years in a job I should be promoted and be line managing someone, and have more responsibilities. The reality is that I am currently single and back living with my parents…society would perhaps say I am failing…but I dunno, I don’t think I am, and that’s all that matters.

And anyway, the reality is we are in a pandemic and people are dying. Those people didn’t get a choice. I still have a choice about how I want to live, so I will make the most of it.

I will make the most of my reality, of this moment, of this life; while I still can.

Final thoughts on this reality

Don’t let society dictate your timeline.

Decide what you want your reality to be. Make peace with it.

The only expectations you have to live up to are your own.

(Can you tell I have just been watching series 1 of After Life ? :D)

How do I Love ?

I was debating whether to post this ‘poem’? But it might help someone, and I did say I would do a daily post so here goes.

When my brain is full, usually when I am in bed at night, before sleeping… I really want to go to sleep of course, but I can’t, because my thoughts are moving so fast and they fly off in tangents and it all gets a bit much and it usually makes me feel a bit panicked. Call it anxiety, call it anything you like but I have absolutely no hope of falling asleep.

So I have found that a good thing for me to do is just ‘brain dump’ these thoughts either into the Notes app on my phone or write them in the notebook. I don’t really think what I am writing too much; I just get them out onto the page.

So yes, this post is basically just one of the Notes from my phone which I wrote about Love; when my brain was panicking about moving on. I am sure other people must experience this fear that they may never find love again…?

I feel some comfort in that I have experienced Love in my life. That mad, intense, aching love. So maybe I should be happy with this, and I think this ‘poem’ is me trying to make peace with that.

If you find the pain in this post disturbing I’m sorry, but hopefully it will ring true for someone and let them feel less alone in their fearful thoughts.

Please don’t worry about my mental state too after you read this, it is quite raw I know. But weirdly when I do these ‘brain dumps’ as I call them, and even when I read them back and I’m like ‘bloody hell, that’s some dark sh**, I sound like I am on the edge of a breakdown’…but often, I am not, I don’t feel as dramatic and hopeless and the post actually sounds. jJust the act of writing it all down, and not thinking about how depressing it sounds. The ‘getting it out’. I instantly feel better, and those thoughts don’t trouble me anymore.

And then I can sleep.

How do I love?

How will I ever know someone like I thought I knew you?

I just can’t be bothered to try. 

I have hope it might happen again, I have to, but at the same time I’m so close to giving up. I’m ok with accepting I have been in love and been loved. I experienced it. It’s more than a lot of people get in a lifetime. 

This is just that parallel Universe where I’m alone. 

Maybe in the other one I’ve actually been sectioned because of being with you did that. You would have made me more crazy than I am now… This is the better outcome. It has to be. 

How do I be? How do I love? Again.

Being, is just so tiring. What’s the point? 

Well at least I felt something, I really did feel it and now maybe, it’s like I’ve had my time, so I just have to find a way to exist. But how? 

How do I stay hopeful that I will feel that love again? And to be honest do I really want to. That sh** really hurt.

But if I never feel it again, then really…what is the point? 

I’m really worried it wasn’t real for you and you are just a crazy who manipulated me and said whatever you needed to say to make me love you? Your actions never really were the evidence, it was always your words I relied on. You told me you loved me multiple times each day. But did you? 

They are just words. 

If that wasn’t real then what is? 

You’ve been with her longer than you was with me now, anyway. So I really should be over it. Really.

Why am I still so sad? 

Mainly I just feel numb. Tired.

Isn’t time supposed to heal this? 

Hurry up and heal. 

Why does healing the damage take more time than the damage took to do? 

I don’t know what I want. 

I need someone to tell me what to do. 

I just know what I don’t want. 

I don’t want you. 

I don’t want him either. 

I don’t want to go through that ache again.   

But where does this all leave me? Now I’m just writing into my notes on my phone so I don’t write to you. Cos you are with her. You moved on.

I can’t seem too.

This grief. 

This pain for all the love I had for you that now has nowhere to go. 

You still exist. You are still alive and it’s so weird I don’t know who you are now. Are you the same, or totally different? What makes your soul alive now? Do you love her?

How do you experience love without the pain.

And if you don’t feel pain when it’s over does that mean it wasn’t actually love? 

I seriously don’t think I could take that pain again. 

Maybe that’s why I’m here, on my own.

I don’t actually want to love again.